Inside The Tent – Peeing Out

silo dodos
Earlier this week it was announced that the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD) and the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM) would be coming together in a partnership to drive a number of research and insight projects that will investigate how both communities of professionals are evolving and adapting to the changing workplace.
The driving force behind this initiative is Chris Kane, ex head of Corporate Real Estate at BBC Workplace and Chair of BIFM’s newly-minted Futures taskforce. A couple of months ago, Chris invited me to help him build the proposition that eventually led to this week’s announcement. I wrote on a whiteboard three questions to frame discussions around:
How might we?
What’s in it for us?

The “How might we?” question is “How might we reshape the world of work?”
The answer to “Why?” is “Because there is significant dysfunction in our current approach, disruption is endemic and we still work, manage and lead with an outdated and irrelevant 20th Century silo mentality.”
“What’s in it for us?” Refers not to Chris and I, but to the question we seek to answer so that those occupying those silos might see the risk inherent in failing to evolve.

Our initial conversations brought us to the conclusion that, for thoughtful and effective place-making to be successful and for working lives to be more creative, productive and meaningful, we needed to examine and understand the root cause of the dysfunctional workplaces and working practices that dog us still, and to a consideration of the actions required to enable a vibrant ecosystem of the future world of work to emerge.
An ecosystem is described as a community of living organisms in conjunction with the nonliving components of their environment, interacting as a system. It is a system with inbuilt dynamic equilibrium and it functions successfully through symbiotic relationships between its constituent parts. Each animal might occupy a particular niche or evolutionary specialism but they will wither and die if they are siloed. Silos are for dodos.

Chris and I felt that we needed to quickly build bridges out of and across these silos to enable evolution. For me, the most logical first step, and the one most easy to put in train, was to bring BIFM (place) and CIPD (people) together. So I picked up the phone and called connector extraordinaire and social media maven, Perry Timms, CIPD’s Social Media & Engagement Advisor and explained what we were up to. Perry got it immediately and kindly agreed to arrange for Chris to meet with Peter Cheese, CEO of the CIPD. Peter was instantly supportive and so our first bridge was built. It’s been a challenge getting the two organisations to come together in what is an extraordinarily brief space of time but the initial success has been built on convergent and congruent intent, words and actions.

In session with Chris Moriarty, BIFM’s Head of Insight & Corporate Affairs, Perry and his colleagues Sarah Boyd and Sophie Nolan, we discussed the notion of the ecosystem as analogous with the future world of work and, borrowing the butterfly effect from chaos theory, we saw that there was great power in channeling the collective impact of many butterflies flapping their wings in harmony. We looped back to silos and made the link with the butterfly hatching from its chrysalis. This was a useful metaphor for the emergence of a fresh approach to the way we think together about the way we work together, outside of our respective silos. We acknowledge that there are multiple complex networks to bridge together. There is much good stuff happening out there already. There will be many people who want to get involved. We also acknowledge that there will be people who disagree. There will almost certainly be a few who might actively work against us. We will be inviting all of these people to come on the journey with us. We are better and stronger, with a greater chance of success, together.

The first round table takes place on 28th May and we’ve got some great minds in the room. This is a first small step and I’m as impatient for action as I’m sure many others will be. My involvement is ongoing and I’ll be working with Chris and the taskforce on an ongoing basis as scribe, facilitator and critical friend. I want to leave the room on the 28th with clear, public committments from people to lead specific workstreams with defined timescales and with a remit to have transparent conversations with anyone they feel can bring value, irrespective of their affiliation. The first round table will operate to the Chatham House Rule but thereafter I will be pushing for people to publicly demonstrate the courage of their convictions. If I think this is degenerating into a talking shop, I’m going to call it out. They need have nothing to fear if they’ve nothing to hide. I will be using this blog and other social media channels to share openly with everyone who has an interest, the inner workings of this undertaking, who is involved and what they are up to. I have a shopping list of other people I see as vital for inclusion if we are to sustain our initial momentum, technologists, educators, policy makers, activists, scientists, climatologists, analysts. These folks are mighty important but they are human beings first and foremost and what we’re trying here, when you boil it down, is to simply do good people stuff.

I’ll leave you with a request.

Join in. Tell us what you think. Suggest people you think we should be talking to. Point out tools and techniques we can use. Seek us out and challenge us. Give us a call and let us buy you a coffee. Use the hashtag #btw

Further reading:
Chris Kane on the genesis of the thinking behind the collaboration
Doug Shaw responds to the announcement
Mark Catchlove adds his thoughts
And more from Chris on why this is so important
Perry Timms gets poetic
A simply astonishing piece from Ian Ellison
Neil Usher provides precisely the sort of challenge needed if this whole enterprise isn’t going to disappear up it’s own arse
Stuart Snelling argues for an “acting with” rather than a “doing to” approach
Neil Usher again, on letting our ideas vanish forever


  1. Reblogged this on adjusteddevelopment and commented:
    Simon Heath draws like he speaks – in a stimulating and lifting way. Please read this. Proud to be mentioned and part of this coming together of FM & HR professionals to build a better place to work and also go beyond the workplace #BtW

  2. It’s a funny serendipity.

    I was just talking to someone about the world of work evolving into this organic, interconnected, community of passionate people rather than a traditional hierarchy.

    I’m sure there are few peeps in kiwi-land who are right behind you in the thinking. Sing out if there is anything we can do to help!

    1. So kind of you to take the time to comment, Amanda. We’re opening this up to everyone, everwhere and I would love to have contributions from your network.

  3. Amanda great to have your input we’re very keen to make this a global conversation in fact we should build on your idea and aim to develop a networked approach to our journey.

  4. I’m excited to see this effort going forward. Any time Associations can finally make the connection of how to truly improve the workplace instead of only focusing on hosting events for people to gather, is a good move. It’s intriguing that you are making intentional moves to recognize there are numerous silos in the workplace (and Associations !!) as well as finding a way to integrate systems/people. You’re on the right path. I’d love to see HR integrated throughout organizations and Associations. The time for standing alone has long passed. Those that continue to want to jump on the pike of their brand vs. mixing the masses is going to cause those organizations and associations to disappear.
    Cheers to your effort and I hope to see it continue to evolve !!

    1. Thank you Steve. We’d like to find a way of expanding this collaboration to our international network. It’s something I’ll be raising at the first roundtable.

  5. […] who would suggest that a greater dialogue would be a “bad thing”, and who would not wish to be in the tent (as Simon Heath puts it). There were however, while supporting the move in principle, two causes of […]

  6. […] perspectives in different ways. If you haven’t read them yet, you should: @ChrisKane55, @SimonHeath1, @markcatchlove, @workessence and @dougshaw1 are a […]

  7. Very interesting.
    The intent is clearly right. From a design-based perspective, the most common and depressing failure to realise better workplaces is a lack of integrated organisational capability to live up to the organisations’ own imagination of how much better things could be.
    “We want to be X!!!!”, the organisation proclaims confidently in briefing session number one. Only to systematically prove their own incapacity at each subsequent meeting…
    “But we can only follow through on Y…” they eventually admit.

    Integrating an organisational capability and learning-based approach to integrated HR is surely part of overcoming this.
    And while supportive of any integrated conversation merging facilities and HR, I share some of Neil’s hesitancy in seeing the idea go more mainstream…
    Not because I want to stay one step ahead and be the only clever smug one in an otherwise ignorant discussion … ; )
    But because I think progress is more likely to be achieved through focused application to each individual opportunity before us, rather than through more formal professional forums, discussions and sponsorship. Each day presents opportunities to “be the change we want to see in the world.”
    Industry associations reinforcing this integrated approach is good support for a better common practise, but wouldn’t be first on the list of effective initiatives for realising change.
    That’s my two cents … For what it might be worth….
    Very interested in anyone who is pushing this boundary in their organisation – teaching their people how to have the capabilities required to realise an optimal workplace as part of their program.
    Credit to you all for pushing forward the agenda.

    1. Steve
      I know how busy you must be, so I really appreciate you taking the time to comment at length.
      Your point about mainstream/industry assocs is moot. I see the assocs as a vehicle and opportunity. We do really need to be clear on what problem we’re trying to solve as well. I want to expand the conversation past the 1% of enlightened practitioners (preaching to the converted) and hear from people in all walks of work. It’s a little like politics. People are don’t vote or join political parties any more because they feel their views are not properly represented and only vested interests are served. Same for assocs. They can evolve or die. For me, working with them on this is about creating a space to enable evolution to happen.

      1. Yes!
        Understood and Agreed. Is no doubt a good initiative to be supported.
        And also acknowledge Chris’s comment that prof associations are people driven.
        So don’t misinterpret – I’m nothing but supportive and I look forward to watching your influence. We all know things can be so much better than most people experience …

  8. […] construct barriers to the worst excesses of these trends.  To that end, I was heartened to see the CIPD and BIFM’s recent announcements of some joint working (courtesy of @SimonHeath1) and I hope they can bring enough momentum to embrace the slightly more […]

  9. whippersnapperhr · · Reply

    What a big giant elephant you are trying to eat here – I’m keen to learn a little more about how you’re going to start nibbling at its toes.

    It seems like such an important task, as everything about our lives change – length of our lives, length of our working lives, composition of our families and generations we’re living with, international & internet connectivity, emerging & declining middle classes, whole shifts of industries… With all of that change how could we not change the workplace in line with it. What does that look like? I haven’t the faintest!

    1. Thanks Sarah. Agree it’s a big challenge. And an important and worthwhile one. I’d like to start with a re-imagining of what work could look like rather than simply trying to deal with what’s wrong with what we now have. Your continued input would be very much appreciated.

  10. […] from us on the subject. You can read David’s blogpost on his experience here. Chris and I are working together on a big conversation that would benefit from a new approach to the questions we’re looking to resolve. I’m […]

  11. […] The smashing folk at the British Institute of Facilities Management asked me to come along to the inaugural roundtable kicking off a joint initiative between them and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) to illustrate the themes and concepts under discussion. I’ve blogged about my wider involvement in this initiative previously here. […]

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